NPA to release captured cop, soldier; declares ceasefire

The NPA’s ComVal North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command said a four-day suspension of military offensives will take effect Tuesday, February 19 to 22 in the towns of Kapalong, San Isidro, Asuncion and New Corella in Davao del Norte and in Laak, Compostela Valley.

By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Following the earlier decision of the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Southern Mindanao, the New People’s Army (NPA) declared a unilateral suspension of military offensives (SOMO) for the safe and orderly release of the two prisoners of war (POW) it held captive since January 17.

The NPA’s ComVal North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command said a four-day suspension of military offensives (SOMO) will take effect Tuesday, February 19 to 22 in the towns of Kapalong, San Isidro, Asuncion and New Corella in Davao del Norte and in Laak, Compostela Valley.

The NDF emphasized that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (APF) should do the same so as not to “further delay the release of the two POWs.”

“The 10th ID-AFP should reciprocate the SOMO and cease from its fascist Oplan Bayanihan operations,” said Rubi del Mundo, spokesman for the NDF-Southern Mindanao, in an e-emailed statement.

Last month, the NPA arrested Pfc. Jezreel Maata Culango of the 60th IB-AFP and SPO1 Ruel Pasion of the Philippine National Police in a checkpoint the NPA set up in Mangloy village, Laak town. The communist guerillas have detained the two government troops for more than a month now.

But “as an act of humanitarianism,” the NDF archived the documentation for the preliminary investigation of the two POWs. The investigating body formed by the NDF, Del Mundo said, found that Culango and Pasion “have committed lesser offenses” that’s why their release was recommended.

Bishop Delfin Callao, Jr. of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and convener of the Sowing the Seeds for Peace, the third party negotiator for the release of the two POWs, welcomed the NDF’s decision.

“We are happy, in the name of the whole church, because the Pasion family is a member of our church and Culango is a member of UCCP (United Church of Christ in the Philippines),” Callao said in a press conference with the POWs’ families Monday.

The bishop furthered, “our call though is for the military to stop its operations because definitely they (the POWs) will not be released since it will put their lives at risk, as well as the third party who will be facilitating for the release.”

Sowing the Seeds for Peace, Callao said, will also seek the intervention of various agencies including the local government units.

Meanwhile, the families of POWs also appealed for the military to stop their operations.

“My only appeal is for the military to stop their operations, albeit temporarily, for the safe and speedy release of my husband,” said Jennifer Pasion, wife of SPO1 Pasion.

Pfc. Culango’s mother, Luzviminda Culango hoped for the same, saying, “ihunong ang operation sa bukid para ang release niya madali ug safety siya sa iyang release (please stop the operations in the countryside so that the release of my son will be hastened and more importantly he’ll be safe).”

Callao noted that with all the POW releases which they have become third party to, “the NPA will really release the POWs if a suspension of military operations is in effect.”

But Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesman for the 10th ID-AFP, said they can’t declare SOMO because they are not even conducting military operations. He said their activities are more on peace and developmental activities through their peace and development teams. He also said that the military does not conduct operations in large parts of ComVal province, but only peace and development programs.

However, the military’s Peace and development programs, rights groups said, are part of the Aquino government’s counter-insurgency operational plan against the underground movement and even against civilians.

NDF’s Del Mundo said that even with the temporary ceasefire, “the NPA remains in active defensive posture against the enemy’s attack.”

The NDF also noted that the decision to release Pfc. Culango and SPO1 Pasion does not prevent the “revolutionary forces” from arresting them in the future “should they be found to commit crimes against the people and other human rights abuses.”
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